With the Super Bowl out of the way, the National Football League is fraught with the unfinished business of a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players. Far less attention has been given to a threat that may be even bigger: the Federal Trade Commission’s announced probe of the exaggerated safety claims of football helmet manufacturers.
All too often, government investigations of industry culminate in bland consent decrees whereby the corporations alleged to have offended standards promise to abandon particular claims without admitting they did anything wrong. If that becomes the end result of the FTC examination of Riddell, the official helmet supplier for the NFL, and of Riddell’s chief competitor Schutt Sports, then an important opportunity will have been missed to shine light on what is now the 17-year-old story of the NFL’s controversial management of the concussion issue.
There’s plenty to suggest that the FTC, at the urging of Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, intends to go beyond the advertising and YouTube promo videos of Riddell and Schutt, and follow the story to its source: the process and substance of the clinical research over the last two decades that has slowed and misled the public in understanding the causes and magnitude of systematic brain trauma in football. If the feds pursue that trail, they will unravel the enmeshment of corrupt NFL doctors with a prominent medical institution and a prominent journal that have skewed studies and publications in ways favorable to a league facing potentially cataclysmic legal exposure.
CONTINUED TODAY AT BEYOND CHRON, THE SAN FRANCISCO ONLINE NEWSPAPER: